Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Larry King Live

Obamas in England; Natalie Cole Desperate for Kidney

Aired March 31, 2009 - 21:00   ET



LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Natalie Cole exclusive -- she's fighting for her life and talking about it here first. Money, success and fame can't buy what she desperately needs -- a new kidney. She beat the drugs that almost killed her.

Can she win this struggle for survival?

But first, the Obamas in England -- U.S. royalty meets the U.K. 's queen. All eyes are on First Lady Michelle.

Will her majesty approve?


Good evening.

In a little while, Natalie Cole.

But right now, in London, Paula Newton, CNN's senior international correspondent.

And in New York, Tina Brown, editor-in-chief and founder of and the best-selling author of "The Diana Chronicles".

Paula, how -- how are they doing, the couple?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: They're sleeping comfortably. Better digs than this, Larry. We're at 10 Downing Street now, the residence of the British prime minister. They're at the U.S. ambassador's house. It's in Regents Park here in London. They're sleeping soundly. They went to go see an American school earlier in the evening. They're to bed now. But a lot of anticipation here.

And, Larry, really, a lot of it for the first lady, Michelle Obama. She has some great admirers here and people will be watching closely to really watch her every move and her every outfit, Larry.

KING: Tina, is there a similarity to Jackie Kennedy in Europe with her husband on his trip there?

TINA BROWN, FOUNDER, THEDAILYBEAST.COM: Well, you know, I think that Jackie and Michelle have only style in common. You know, I mean, the thing about Michelle is that she's such an authoritative sort of striding, self-confident, self-assured woman.

And Jackie was an immense charmer with a lot of French Polish and a lot of European flare. But she didn't have Michelle's authenticity. People in England are kind of overawed by that because they're not used to quite that level of self-assurance in their women in public life.

KING: All right. What -- what are they saying, Paula, about her?

If we put -- if we put her on the cover of a British magazine, does it sell more?

NEWTON: Absolutely. Not just because of her arms. I mean people are looking at her outfit and looking at she's clearly in great shape.

What does she do for people here, though, Larry, is she is busting through the class system. Remember, here in Britain, the class system is still very well entrenched. People have it in their face every day. Michelle Obama is the very vision of someone who went through all of those barriers and, you know, to get where she is and is still, as Tina just said, an authentic woman and mother. And I think people are looking to her to really set the tone.

You know, Larry, in many ways, she can be a big asset to Barack Obama -- certainly the two of them, in terms of what he is trying to achieve. She won't get involved politically. But just from what it says, from a point of image. It says a lot to your -- specifically to people here in Britain.

KING: They have a private audience tomorrow, Tina, with the queen.

Do they have to be given lessons, protocol, things about that?

BROWN: Well, you know, one of the things that's great about the queen is that she loves people who are real. You know, her -- the word she often uses about things she doesn't want to do is she says, I don't want to do that. That's like a stunt.

And she likes people who are really real. She'll really dig the fact, for instance, that Michelle Obama was photographed digging her vegetable garden, because the queen is a country woman to her sensible shoes. So she will love that about Michelle.

I don't think the queen is going to care about any of that. I think she's going to look at these people and think these people are really real, young. They are the future. I think she's going to find that very intriguing, because the queen loves to know new things, meet new people. And she will see that they're authentic.

KING: Paula, a recent "Financial Times" poll indicated that the British have even more trust in Obama than Americans. And he is going through the roof.

Why do you think that is? NEWTON: I think it's just hope and aspiration. I mean right now, people don't have that image of Gordon Brown, their own leader. They look throughout Europe, they don't see the other leaders that way. They know that this is a new leader in a new mold even for them. And, certainly, there are a lot of risks here, Larry, because the expectations are so high.

But for now, the honeymoon is still in place. I think American policymakers are looking to make the most of it.

KING: All right. As have other nations in Europe, Tina, Britain has had its problems with racism.

How do you think that reads into this?

BROWN: Well, I just think that they will feel so incredibly inspired by Michelle Obama and by Barack Obama, as a matter of fact. Because there is really nobody like them in public life in parliament or in any part of the British sort of ruling class, really, if you like. I mean, of course, we now have many Asian peers in the House of Lords. There are, you know, black members of parliament, but not many -- hardly any.

And it's just the feeling that we -- that England is still behind America, really, in this sense, even though, you know, there is a large kind of racial component, particularly a Muslim component in England now.

So it just feels as if England is just behind in every way in this instance. And I think they feel kind of a little chastened and also inspired by seeing this.

KING: We all know, Paula, that the president enjoys his children. He likes to have dinner with them as much as possible.

Is there mixed feelings for him here being away?

NEWTON: I'd have to absolutely think so.

You know, when you look at the schedule and you look at the number of days away, any one who has children -- you and I both know, Larry, that's a long time for kids, in terms of the schedule. It's a good reason that they have, you know, his mother-in-law on deck there to take care of the kids.

But, look, this is an exciting time for the Obamas. There a lot of different events going on here. They're really going to try and seize the moment.

And there's a good mix. You know, while Barack Obama will be right here having dinner with the leaders tomorrow night, the spouses' dinner -- Michelle Obama will be having dinner hosted by Gordon Brown's wife. She'll be sitting next to J.K. Rowling, the, you know, Harry Potter author, who really scrapped her way to the top of the literary world -- really, mixed. And this is only the beginning. They've got a European tour and Turkey ahead of them. KING: But the wife of the president of France, Tina, we understand is not there, right?

BROWN: No. No, Carla Bruni, Madam Sarkozy, elected not to come. And that was smart of her, because I think she realized she would not come off as well next to the very own Michelle Obama. You know, I think that, Carla Bruni came -- went to London, you know, last year, got a lot of buzz and everybody thought she was gorgeous and she did very well.

But there's also something a little fake about Carla Bruni. And in this kind of economic turndown, this is not the moment for the designer cover girl. This is the moment to be real and to look as if you've bought your own clothes. Michelle gets real points for that whole J. Crew moment of fashion here in America, where she basically said, you know, I'm not spending a lot on clothes. And that's -- that's cool in Britain. It always has been, actually.

KING: Paula, politics aside, are you surprised that basically kind of a neophyte -- how well the president is doing?

NEWTON: I think that definitely he's been given -- I have to say it, Larry, a very easy ride.

I think how well has he been doing?

I don't know. I think that people are taking a wait and see attitude. As Tina has said, there's so much hope invested in him just for what he and, frankly, his wife, as well, have been able to achieve.

But that doesn't mean that coming out of this summit that not only him, but America's approach to what's going on -- with all of this money meltdown -- that they're going to come off looking any better.

Look, Barack Obama has a lot to prove here still. And, yes, this is a honeymoon. That's what it is. I'm not sure how long this period is going to last.

KING: Thank you both.

Paula Newton, CNN's senior international correspondent, in London.


KING: And Tina Brown, editor-in-chief and founder of in New York.

Next, as we said, she's still unforgettable. She's music royalty. Natalie Cole is here talking to us.

Don't go away.


KING: What can one say about Natalie Cole -- the great singer, actress, best-selling author. Her latest album, by the way, "Still Unforgettable." I have it here in my hand. It came out a little while ago. It won two Grammys earlier this year. She's the daughter of the late and great Nat King Cole. And this C.D. Is now out in Europe. Last on this program like seven years ago.

NATALIE COLE: Oh, is that how long it's been?

KING: Well, September of 2002.

COLE: Oh, my goodness.

KING: And you've been pretty busy.

COLE: I have.

KING: Let's get right to the nitty-gritty.

What -- what's wrong with the kidney?

COLE: Well, it started about -- a little over a year ago. Initially, I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. And I went -- that was in February of 2008. And then I went on chemo in May. And by...

KING: You had cancer of the kidney?

COLE: Well, it's like a virus, you know. And they treat it very aggressively. And -- but I've had it forever. And I had it from -- from drug use. There are three-ways you can get Hepatitis C. It's tattoos, blood transfusion or drug use with needles.

KING: So you caused your own problem?

COLE: More or less. And it was 25 years it's still existing in my body. I went to the interferon, the chemotherapy. And within four months, I had kidney failure.

KING: Caused by the interferon?

COLE: Oh, we're -- yes. We're -- I'm ready to address that now. I didn't want to address that yet. But the doctors are...

KING: Is that the usual?

COLE: Yes.

KING: You mean...

COLE: It's something that the medical, -- that physicians have not really addressed. They've not acknowledged it, but it's very impacting to the kidneys.

KING: Do they give it as a matter of course? COLE: No, they're not saying much about it. But it's shown that several people that have had chemotherapy, that it has impacted their kidneys.

KING: So interferon...

COLE: Interferon.

KING: Now, is this your opinion or have they -- have they now acknowledged it?

COLE: No. They haven't acknowledged it yet. But when I spoke with my doctor, he didn't say no and he didn't say yes.

So I think that...

KING: You believe it, though?

COLE: Absolutely, with every bit of my body. I never had a kidney problem in my life. Never. And within four months, I was in renal failure. My kidney was functioning at less than 10 percent. And within five days, I was on dialysis.

KING: What's it like?

What's your first sign when kidneys aren't working?

COLE: For me, it was I couldn't breathe. I -- I went into -- literally, my kidneys stopped functioning. They stopped, you know, processing the fluid that was starting to build up in my body.

KING: How did you go to the bathroom?

COLE: I was able to go to the bathroom. But I was having such trouble breathing and my kidney failure was -- you know, functioning very, very low. So I went to the -- the doctor came to me, actually and x-rayed me and took me to his office. And he said you've got to go to the hospital right away.

KING: What specifically is wrong with your kidneys right now?

COLE: Well, it's...

KING: Is it both kidneys?

COLE: It's -- yes. It's renal...

KING: What's wrong?

COLE: It's renal failure. Other than the fact that I was on chemotherapy earlier last year, there's nothing wrong with my kidneys.

KING: If you don't get a new -- you need one, right?

COLE: Right.

KING: If you don't get a new kidney, what happens?

COLE: I'll be fine. I'll be fine.

KING: You will be fine?

COLE: I will be fine. Dialysis, which is what I'm on, I go three days a week. And anyone that knows about kidney function or dialysis or anyone that's in someone's family, perhaps, you know that it's about a three day a week treatment for three-and-a-half hours.

KING: But if you don't get a new kidney, it's -- you've got to be on dialysis forever?

COLE: Then you've got to do the dialysis for the rest of your life, which is pretty challenging.

KING: Neal Simon, the great playwright, had this well -- in his 70s.

COLE: Right.

KING: And he said the dialysis was terrible.

COLE: Oh, really?

KING: He didn't like getting it.

COLE: Well, he probably didn't like it because it -- you know, it interrupts your life, you know?

But other than that...

KING: What do you do when you get dialysis?

COLE: You go to -- well, the first thing that they had to do was they had to put a catheter in my chest in order for me to be able to be hooked up -- to get hooked up to these machines that they have. But it's really a very fascinating process. Basically, they're cleaning my blood three days a week. So I have the healthiest blood on the planet.

KING: How long does it take, each section?

COLE: Three-and-a-half -- about three hours and 15 minutes. That's how long I'm on.

KING: How long to hook you up?

COLE: Ten minutes.

KING: And what do you do, sit there, read?

COLE: You sit there and you read. You eat. You watch TV. You nap, just, you know.

KING: Where do you do this at? COLE: There's a wonderful facility that I go to called DaVita. There's a gentleman named Kent Thiry who founded this organization some -- a little a little while ago. I've just met him very recently. There's now 1,400 of these facilities around the country.

KING: Are there a lot of people there every day?

COLE: Yes, it's booked.

KING: Men and women?

COLE: Yes. I mean there are so many people that are in some form of -- are having some form of dialysis around the country. It's amazing. It's like almost half a million people now.

KING: Would you donate a kidney to a friend?

That's tonight's Quick Vote question. You can go to and cast your ballot and more with Natalie in 60 seconds.


KING: We're back with the great Natalie Cole.

In effect, though, there are people worse off than you in that...

COLE: Absolutely.

KING: ...if they don't get a kidney, they die?

COLE: That's -- that's right.

KING: If you don't get a kidney, you have dialysis the rest of your life?

COLE: Yes. Well, if you don't have dialysis, absolutely, you will die. Dialysis is actually keeping me alive.

KING: Are you on a list somewhere?

COLE: I am. I'm on a very long list, which is why we are looking to donors -- living donors. You can get a kidney also from cadavers, which is not abnormal. You know, it sounds a little weird but...

KING: Is there an order -- you can't get Natalie Cole, because she's Natalie Cole, can't get ahead on the list?

COLE: It's what?

KING: You can't get ahead on the list?

COLE: No. They don't do it like that. They do it according to what your needs are.

If I was more ill -- let's say -- a lot of people that have kidney problems are diabetic. They're overweight. They have obesity issues. They have very, very high blood pressure. And they have just different things going on with them.

I was on dialysis in London. And there was a gentleman there who had no toes. So he's already dealing with diabetes.

KING: You can work...

COLE: But he was also on, you know, having kidney problems.

KING: You can go out and sing?

COLE: Absolutely.

KING: You can tour?

COLE: Absolutely.

KING: All right. But let's say you're touring, you're opening in Detroit.

COLE: Yes.

KING: There's a center there where they can hook you up?

COLE: Yes.

KING: All dialysis is the same?

COLE: All the facilities are the same.

KING: They do the same thing?

COLE: They know -- I have a wonderful team of people at my facility here in Los Angeles that I tell them where I'm going and they make phone calls and make appointments. And it's really quite amazing. I have been on dialysis in Istanbul, Milan, Indonesia, Manila, London. It's -- it's amazing. It's really fascinating.

KING: And we're amazed ourselves. I'm going give this to you. We'll check with it later. We have to ask the question. These are all e-mails from dozens -- dozens of people offering to be tested to see if they can match who want to give you a kidney.

COLE: That's -- that's amazing. That is really amazing.

KING: What do you make of that?

COLE: I -- I don't know. I always felt that it was just so -- so strange, you know, to solicit to strangers, you know, for a kidney. But people -- people are really great. There are some great human beings out there. That's all I can say.

KING: Your son wasn't a match?

COLE: No. He wasn't. KING: What does it take to match?

COLE: Well, it takes a few things. There's -- there is -- it's more than blood. It's not just if you're B negative. And I'm B positive. There's -- your general health has to be really, really good. There are some other requirements that they have.

In other words, my son had some blood pressure issues. And they felt that that was a red flag. To a regular doctor who you see, let's say, once every couple of months, that's not a big deal, if your pressure is at, say, 135/80. But to the transplant people, that's a big deal.

KING: If you have something to say to Natalie, go to, click on our blog and we'll share some of your comments with her a little later in the show.

Stay with us.


KING: Natalie Cole is our guest.

We will include your phone calls.

We have an e-mail from Sandy in Owings Mills, Maryland.

If you don't have a donor, how can somebody go about getting tested to see if they're a match for you?

And is there any age criteria for donating?

COLE: I would say that it would be favorable to get a kidney that -- from someone that's younger. Absolutely.

KING: Younger than you?

COLE: Yes.

KING: How old are you?

COLE: I'm almost 60 so...

KING: You're almost 60?

COLE: Yes.

KING: Whooo.

COLE: I look pretty good, right?

KING: Unbelievable.

How old was your dad when he died?

COLE: He was 47. Isn't that something?

KING: The smoking. (INAUDIBLE).

COLE: You're right. That's exactly right.

KING: That's what killed him.

COLE: But I have to say, Larry, that the -- the attitude of going through this is really what makes the difference between your friend...

KING: The attitude of the giver...

COLE: ...that you were -- that you spoke of. The attitude of the, you know, the person that's going through this is really what's all- important. I mean...

KING: You have a good attitude?

COLE: I -- I do. I -- you know, I just...

KING: Are you saying if you never get a kidney and you have to do this until you're 90, you'll do it until you're 90?

COLE: Well, I'll have to do something if I want to live. Absolutely.


COLE: Yes. Absolutely.

KING: Comedian George Lopez, under -- a friend of yours -- underwent a kidney operation in April of 2005. And his wife Ann was his donor. He talked about the kidney problems on this show about two months later.



KING: Tell me how you discovered something was wrong?

GEORGE LOPEZ, COMEDIAN: Well, I mean it goes back to my childbirth. I mean I was born with this thing. But what happened was that I had tore my Achilles in the middle of the '90s. And I taking over the counter drugs, you know, for med -- for pain. And with that, what they were doing was my kidneys were already in distress and that just affected them to where it started giving me a dull pain. And I was literally bent over. And we were in Florida. And Ann says when you get back, go see the doctor.

So he ran some tests. He ran a creatine level check and came in with the bad news. And he said not only...

KING: What was the news? LOPEZ: Not only did you have kidney disease, but you're progressed to the point where you're going to need a transplant by the time you're 45. And I was just really just blown away. And Ann says: "I'll give you one of mine." And I'm like: "Ann, the guy is just telling me that I'm going to die. Be quiet."

ANN LOPEZ: He was telling me to be quiet.


KING: George said to you he'd give you one, but he only has one.

COLE: Yes. He said I'd give you mine, but I only have one. That was very sweet. You know, that -- that's amazing. And, see, that just goes to show you, too, that there are different reasons now. There's so little that's known about the kidney.

KING: Little?

COLE: There's a lot -- there's not a lot known. I mean I have two friends right now who both have had -- either one is getting ready to have some kidney problems and another just got a transplant about two years ago. Both of them have kidney trouble that the doctors do not know why, that they are -- that they went into kidney trouble.

So it used to be a blood transfusion, tattoos or needles -- needle use. That would be the reason why you would have, you know, hepatitis or something. But now with -- with kidneys, anything can happen.

KING: We always hear about a lot of pain with kidneys -- pain in the lower back.

COLE: You know, that is not my experience. That is not my experience. I'm telling you that it's just so unusual. And I think that that's why I have to let you know about an organization. One of the friends that, I was talking about that had the transplant two years ago was an attorney. His name was Ken Kleinberg. And he started a an organization called the University Kidney Research Organization.

Not enough is done about kidney research. We need more money for that. The National Kidney Foundation, a wonderful organization. But they focus more on preventive -- watching your blood pressure, you know, watching your weight, things like this. Not a lot is done about research. And they need to know more.

KING: You were an addict for how long?

COLE: Oh, not even that long -- five, six years. Yes.

KING: Did it affect your work?

Were you able to be stoned and go on stage and sing?

COLE: Yes, but I really wasn't that good. I wasn't as good. I was much better sober. KING: So when this happened -- by the way, how did you beat it?

COLE: I really went into cold turkey.

KING: No rehab center?

COLE: No, I had rehab. The rehab was for the cocaine. The heroin I did on my own. I just went into cold turkey. It was a horrible, horrible experience. And, you know, I got in trouble when I when I said something about Amy Winehouse. You remember...

KING: You criticized her, right?

COLE: Yes. Yes. And I was really not just criticizing her. I was really criticizing my -- my wonderful organization, which I support lovingly, and that's the Grammys. And that's who I was really criticizing.

KING: You criticized them for having her on?

COLE: For having her on there and for -- for...

KING: But isn't there some hypocrisy since you had the same kind of problem?

COLE: Well, there -- nobody was hiring me when I was on drugs. Nobody wanted anything to do with me. And that's how it should have been. I needed to earn my stripes.

KING: Do you know -- maybe this is impossible -- do you know why you got into drugs?

COLE: I think it's a matter of having low self-esteem. I think that there is a void in one's life, in one's heart that you just can't fill and people fill it with different things, whether it's drugs, whether it's sex, whether it's liquor, whether it's gambling, whether it's -- some kind of addiction, you know. And there are just those of us who are like little walking around garbage cans where we just can't figure out what to do.

KING: So do you, frankly, in part, blame yourself?

COLE: Absolutely. You have to take re...

KING: You brought on your own disease?

COLE: Oh, you have to take responsibility for it. I mean, yes, you can go back to your childhood and you can, you know, throw some blame in a couple of individuals and a couple of spots. But at the end of the day, you do have to take responsibility for your life.

KING: Natalie says she identifies with the Obamas. We'll talk to her about that.

Plus, a surprise coming. That's ahead.


KING: We're back with Natalie Cole. Suppose you pop up on the list right now. What happens?

COLE: We're good to go.

KING: If they call you?

COLE: If it is a person that's a living person, and everything matches up perfectly, then we just ask them can you wait until the end of the year, when I finish my schedule. I have got a schedule. I'm working.

KING: Wait a minute. Come on.


KING: They have a kidney for you. Hold it, I am opening in Detroit. That's chutzpah.

COLE: No, it's not chutzpah. This is the deal. It is not a life and death situation. I know your show was doing that for the -- for the ratings. But it's not.

KING: Were we saying that?

COLE: She's struggling for her life. It's between life and death. We were getting calls all over the country. My manager was feeding calls.

KING: We wouldn't do that?

COLE: Yes, right.

KING: Wait, hold it. Hold it. I will defend us. I didn't know we did this. But if you hear someone needs a transplant, that is the first thing you think.

COLE: Heart transplant different.

KING: I would think any transplant. Liver.

COLE: Liver totally different.

KING: How about brain?

COLE: Very cute. Very cute.

KING: I would think life and death. If I hear transplant, I would think life and death.

COLE: It's really not --

KING: You can put it off?

COLE: Absolutely. Absolutely. You know what, there are more people that need a transplant than there are people to give it, than there are donors, which is unfortunate.

KING: What was Hepatitis C like?

COLE: Horrible. I didn't know I had it. It is a very interesting situation, because I didn't know anything was wrong with me. And it wasn't until I started taking chemo that I got really, really sick.

KING: Really sick meaning?

COLE: Well the chemo -- if you have ever known anyone on chemotherapy.

KING: They get bald. But they complain, nauseous.

COLE: Nauseous, losing weight. You just can't do anything. Can't lift your head up off the pillow. Very, very difficult. Now that was hard to work. I had to work.

KING: You worked with it?

COLE: I did. I just couldn't see myself laying in bed for the next four, five months.

KING: The cure is worse than the disease?

COLE: Yes, absolutely. Even the doctors say that.

KING: Are there times you want to die?

COLE: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, I just couldn't take it. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. Well, actually there is a few people I can think of.

KING: What then kept you going to get on the stage? What does keep you going?

COLE: It was the only thing I had left, Larry, my voice. God didn't take my voice. He took my health for a minute. You know, but my voice was still there. And now we should talk about my music.

KING: I am going to. I think your father would be proud?

COLE: I think he would too.

KING: I have no doubt he would be proud.

COLE: Thank you.

KING: By the way, a transplant if it comes for you, entails what. How long does it take? What do they do?

COLE: It will take about -- I will be in the hospital four, five days. The donor will be in the hospital probably two days. Their recovery time will be about two weeks. Mine will be about three months. And there is a quarantine factor, which is where you can't really be around a lot of people for two weeks after the surgery.

KING: Because?

COLE: Infection. You are just really susceptible to a lot of infection.

KING: Isn't there a black market in kidneys?

COLE: I have heard there is. We don't want to talk about that.

KING: People buy them?

COLE: Absolutely. In places like India, where they're willing to give their eyeballs away, because, you know, these things are very, very valuable. So you can buy a kidney in India, or in certain places around the country for, you know, probably 10,000, 15,000, up to 50 grand. People would do it in a minute.

KING: Before we talk music and other things, what are you -- do you have a fear going back to the drugs?


KING: Not at all?

COLE: Not now.

KING: Not now? But you did?

COLE: I did. And as a matter of fact, I think one of the best signs of recovery is being afraid that you are not going to make it. I think it is a good sign. When I was in rehab, I was there for six months. And the first month, I couldn't wait to get out of there. You know? As a matter of fact, the first time I went. I went twice. The first time I want to rehab, I was there 30 days. I couldn't wait to get back to my drugs. They were in a safe. You know, I just wiled away my time.

But the second time, I was in rehab for six months. And I was petrified to leave. I didn't want to leave. And that was a good sign. My counselor told me that was a good sign.

KING: Was there a second time because you failed?

COLE: Yes, the first time. I had the drugs in the safe. I just wasn't ready. You have to be ready. It's something that you really do -- you do it with the help of professional people. But you still have to do it yourself. And it really does -- it, you know, requires resolve, great resolve, great strength.

KING: Natalie Cole is our guest. Want more information on organ donations go to, click on blog and link to the United Network for Organ Sharing. We have also got a link to Natalie's website, where you can get updates on her search for a donor. We'll be right back.


KING: We're back with Natalie Cole. By the way, her website is And in a few days or a week, they're going to tell you how to link up to their own, right, to find --

COLE: If you want to be a donor or be tested, because everybody has to be tested.

KING: Another website that you gave us,, you go to search, and when you hit search, go to kidney transplant. What does that one do?

COLE: That is going to give you information on what it is to be a donor and kidney transplant and what it all entails.

KING: Red carpet fashion guru Steven Cojocaru has had two kidney transplants. He told me a little about it in January of last year. Take a look.


STEVEN COJOCARU, FASHION GURU: Out of nowhere -- I had this great life, this air head on the red carpet.

KING: Fashion consultant.

COJOCARU: Fashion guru, really a TV person talking about fashion, sort of making fun of it. Having a good time. Out of nowhere, I was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease, which his a disease that affects the kidneys. With some people, they can last their life with their natural kidneys. I couldn't. I had to have a transplant.

KING: Is it cancer of the kidney?

COJOCARU: Not at all. It's a genetic disease.

KING: How do they treat it until you get a kidney?

COJOCARU: You have only one option, dialysis.

KING: You did dialysis?

COJOCARU: I did dialysis. I had one kidney. My best friend gave it to me, Abby. I got a virus. Then I struggled for three, four months in the hospital. Then I lost it.

KING: You got a kidney, and lost the kidney?

COJOCARU: Lost the kidney.

KING: It was a good kidney?

COJOCARU: It was a great kidney. It was a grade a kidney. I lost it. I had to go on dialysis.

KING: How long dialysis, three days a week?

COJOCARU: I did it at home. I was a very good student and I had my PHD in dialysis. I did it at home. Not a lot of people do.

KING: You had a machine at home?

COJOCARU: I had a machine at home and lived by that machine.

KING: Then what happened?

COJOCARU: Then a miracle. I was looking for a second kidney. Nowadays, they try to give you a kidney quick. You get a live donor. Rather than being on a list, that is a better option. My doctor and I were looking for possible matches. There were no matches. Out of the blue, my doctor says, why don't we look at your mother. My mother has energy like you have never seen, the energy of ten men.

And I immediately said no. I didn't want to cut open my mother. I was a little bit of a brat. She's too old. I want like a 19-year- old football player who passed. And then she turned out to be a phenomenal match. And that's the miracle.


KING: What were you saying?

COLE: I was saying that is unusual they would look at his mom. Because normally they would want a cadaver, a kidney that is younger.

KING: What do you make of doing dialysis at home?

COLE: I have had that option presented to me. I'm not so sure. I don't know that I want to be that responsible.

KING: Do you feel you might be subject to disease more than the average person?


KING: You don't think so?


KING: Tampa Florida with a call for Natalie Cole. Hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry, my question for Natalie Cole is: with 16 people dying every day due to lack of organ donations, what are your thoughts about the cloning organ, therefore using science and stem cell research to give hope to those that make a list but don't have a chance to survive the lengthy process?

COLE: I think this is a really good platform for stem cell research, actually. To be able to use your own stem cells to create kidneys for people who are dying, as you said. Because I just said to Larry earlier, there are more people that are getting transplants or needing transplants than there are people who are able to be donors. So I think that it is a very good, you know, campaign for stem cell research. Absolutely.

KING: Are you singing as well as you always did?

COLE: Better than ever, which is really amazing. I mean --

KING: Tony Bennett, he is 82.

COLE: Tony is ridiculous.

KING: How do you explain that. You should have been singing better at 30?

COLE: I know. You know what I said to someone today? I said, I don't know. As a matter of fact, it was the lady that I spoke to before I did this interview. And I said to her, I don't know. I am not so sure that you are at your peak when you are 30. I think you should be getting better as you get older. And I am. I really am. I don't understand it, Larry. I think it is just God's grace.

KING: Was it your idea to sing with your late father?

COLE: Yes. And we started doing that in Las Vegas in the '80s, before "Unforgettable" even was thought of. People started boo-hooing so loud in the audience. But it was a big hit, a big success. We use a little reel to reel. It was very crude. You know?

KING: That voice though. No voice like Nat King Cole's.

COLE: None, not at all.

KING: Great piano player.

COLE: I know. All the great piano players are so jealous of his technique, because he -- you know, he taught himself how to play.

KING: He did?

COLE: Yes.

KING: Your blog comments are next. Give Natalie your best at We'll see you in 60 seconds.


KING: Oh just play the whole thing. I see the comments coming in tonight on our blog. David Theall is standing by to tell you what they're saying. David?

DAVID THEALL, CNN BLOG CORRESPONDENT: Larry, a lot of people are sharing their experiences with us tonight and want us to share their experiences with Natalie.

Somebody says, "I had a kidney transplant in 2001. I would like to share my story of hope with Natalie." A lot of people sending in their prayers for Miss Cole and her family. "Our prayers are with you." Another person says "you are a gift to us all."

Also, people are blogging tonight about their own health problems and their own long wait for organ transplants. That's happening tonight, Larry, on the blog.

KING: David, I see that people have written in during the show, wanting to know how they can help Natalie.

THEALL: Just as we had those e-mails today come into the office, Larry, we have people offering on the blog. Somebody says add my name to the list of people offering to help Natalie. He says, her spirit and talent are needed in this world.

Now, Larry, we have put on the blog -- we have put a link, some sites where people can go for more information for organ donation, including the United Network for Organ Sharing, which is on organization that brings together medical professionals, recipients and donors. It's just a starting place to go. You can find that, along with this conversation, at Look for that blog link. And on there, you'll find the link to that and you'll find also the place to leave your comments, where Larry and I always, always love hearing from you.

KING: You bet you, David. Always on top of the scene, David Theall. Our daily podcast is ready to download. Go to and get it. And we'll be back with Natalie Cole. I'm laughing because we got a surprise coming right after this.


KING: Looking forward to hearing what that is all about.

COLE: I have a little crush on Anderson Cooper.

KING: You have a crush on Anderson?

COLE: Just a little small. Don't get excited, just a little, small, small crush. I love your reporting, hi.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

KING: The things that happen on this program, I'm just in the middle.

COLE: I know.

KING: OK. We have a little surprise for you, a little surprise. Say hello, caller.


COLE: Hey, honey. Yes.

KING: You know who that is? COLE: I know who this is.

KING: Who is this?

COLE: Sweetie. Smoky.

KING: This is Smoky Robinson, the legendary R&B soul singer, song writer, close friend of Natalie's. Have you two every worked together, Smoky?

COLE: Oh, yes. Oh, absolutely. We have had a ball.

ROBINSON: Natalie's my baby. I wanted to call in and tell you that Francis and I are praying for you. Everything's going to be all right.

COLE: I know it.

ROBINSON: Everything's really going to be all right.

COLE: You're so sweet.

ROBINSON: I heard that you were going to be on the show today. I said, let me call in and tell my baby is everything is going to be fine.

COLE: You are so sweet.

KING: Smoky, what do you think aft way Natalie handled the health problems?

ROBINSON: Natalie's a trooper. Natalie's a trooper in every aspect of life. I mean, so she's just a trooper. And she handles everything. So I know she is going to handle this perfectly, because that's who she is. She's always been that way.

KING: She's been pretty candid. What do you know about her that we may not know?

COLE: Oh, know, smoky, get off the phone.

ROBINSON: No. Not giving up the family secrets.

COLE: No. We are not going to do that. We're going to stay cool, keep our friends.

ROBINSON: You know, Natalie and I have been together too long for us to talk about that.

COLE: Amen, amen. That's right. Thank you. Love you.

KING: I want to congratulate you far getting a second star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He got a star honoring him and the other members of the Miracles. He got a star for his work as a solo artist, as well. Natalie got a star on the Walk of Fame in 1979. Anything you want to say to our lady here, Smoky? ROBINSON: First of all, thank you for that, Larry, I appreciate that. But, like I said, I wanted to call in and tell her -- she knows -- I love her and everything's going to be fine.

COLE: Everything. Thank you, sweetie. Love you.

ROBINSON: Bye, baby.

KING: Let's take a call from West Palm Beach. Hello.

CALLER: Hi. Natalie. I wanted to ask you, do you have any plans to do movies and TV series in the near future?

COLE: Actually, yes. I'm looking forward to doing some -- doing some writing for a series that I'm interested in working on, as well as a Christmas movie, possibly for television. But we'll see. And we're still trying to work on -- I mean, you know, one day I'll try to sit where Larry's sitting.

KING: You want to try this?

COLE: Yes. I would love to. I would absolutely love to.

KING: Want to sit in one night?

COLE: I'd love to. I think what you do is absolutely fascinating. I would love to.

KING: Not what the producers would love. Natalie's sitting here.

COLE: Break into song a little bit?

KING: No, no, no. Let's take a next call.


KING: Miss Cole, your kidney is ready. If you could arrange that.

COLE: That would be awesome. But you have to remember, it is not -- it is not like that. You know, if it's ready, just keep it. I'll be right there.

KING: Not right there. You have to finish. You don't walk off the show.

COLE: No. You know what? I'm glad it's not like that.

KING: Yes.

COLE: I'm really glad it is not that dire.

KING: We are, too.

COLE: Because that would be -- that's stressful, very stressful. KING: No kidding.

COLE: Yes.

KING: Oh kidding, yes. We'll be back with our remaining moments with the wonderful Natalie Cole after this.


KING: Before we leave, we'll ask her about the president. Her tour starts next month, right?

COLE: Yes, yes.

KING: The CD is "Still Unforgettable," winning Grammys. I asked her in the break if she is dating anyone and she said -- tell them.

COLE: Well, I found out something very interesting while I was ill. Since I've been ill, and that is, number one, you find out who your real friends are. And number two, guys don't seem to do very well with girlfriend that get sick. I don't mean just a cold. I mean, like this kind of illness.

KING: You mean they don't want to --

COLE: They're uncomfortable.

KING: What are they afraid of?

COLE: I don't know. They're uncomfortable. I was dating a gentleman who was basically an idiot.

KING: Which is what attracted you to him.

COLE: Yes, of course. But you don't find these things out until -- you know, until you're into it and then you fine out that they really have nothing to contribute. They're -- they're just not engaged. They don't want that problem. It's a problem.

KING: Yes.

COLE: Of course, we heard about a very sad story, Mayor Reardon (ph) and his wife.

KING: Yes.

COLE: OK? I mean, they've been married for a long time until she got deathly ill with cancer and he's out the door. I find that to be pretty disturbing. Coming with a kidney, I don't want to see any guys right now.

KING: What do you thinking of our Obama, the Obamas?

COLE: Now, he don't have to bring anything. He can just come right here. I love him. I love him dearly. I really, really do. I think that he -- he represents a genteelness in a man that I don't get a chance to see very often, he and his wife both. And I was speaking to the interviewer earlier and they remind me very much -- my sister and I spoke of this, as well. They remind me of our family as we were growing up, my sister and I, and my dad and my mom.

And at one time, we were called the black Kennedys, because we were so -- you know, we were so -- especially to the black community, we were way up there. We had the wealth and the big house and the success and the fame. And my mother dressed us very stylishly. And my father -- I mean, it was just a very unusual time in our history.

KING: You compared to her, too?

COLE: I know how they feel.

KING: You like Michelle?

COLE: I love her. I think she is great. I think that the -- I guess it's the stability that they have been able to already build. In other words, they came stable. They came with a foundation.

KING: Yes. Your father, I never met him, but I have talked to so many people about him. Your father, if one word were to describe him, it would be class.

COLE: Yes. You got it. You got it.

KING: Got it.

COLE: You can't buy it. You can't invent it. You can't fake it.

KING: He did that show that many stations in the south didn't carry. NBC carried it, to their great credit. Stations wouldn't carry it because he was black.

COLE: Yes. Isn't that something?

KING: Absurd.

COLE: Totally ridiculous.

KING: And he smoked.

COLE: I know.

KING: He smoked.

COLE: So did Sammy and so did Dean and they --

KING: They killed themselves.

COLE: Ugh!

KING: OK. The tour is starting next month. Where do you open?

COLE: Wait a minute. First place is going to be Seattle, with the Seattle Symphony.


COLE: And then we are going to -- I think we are doing a show up in Vegas and we go to Seoul, Korea, which I have never been to before. Don't forget,I have to find dialysis facilities all over these places.

KING: You better.

COLE: Very interesting.

KING: Thank you, doll.

COLE: Thank you, my dear. Good to see you.

KING: The great Natalie Cole. You can bandy that word around but it fits. Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carey will be here together Friday night. Now more on the Obama's first official overseas trip and a lot more, too, with Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." Anderson, it's yours.